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Judge must decide fate of embryos in divorce dispute

In the past, people who were unable to have biological children had few options available to them. Thanks to relatively rapid advances in medical technology, people who dream of having children with their own genetic makeup now have options available to them. As a result of these advances, the legal system is struggling to make decisions regarding the custody of embryos after a divorce. One out-of-state judge is set to determine the fate of five embryos in a case that is likely being watched in Mississippi and across the country.

The case involves a couple who married five years ago. Just before the wedding, the woman reportedly discovered that she was suffering from cancer. Because the couple feared that cancer treatments would leave the woman infertile, they created five embryos that are now frozen. However, the husband filed for divorce two years ago.

The last issue to settle in what appears to be a contentious divorce is the fate of the embryos. The husband argues that the consent agreements -- stating that the embryos would be destroyed if the marriage ends -- should be upheld. However, the woman claims that she is now infertile, and the embryos represent her own chance of having biological children. She additionally claims that she signed the papers while going through the emotional turmoil of a wedding and cancer diagnosis and did not consider the agreements a binding contract at the time.

A judge in this case will likely have a difficult decision to make. While past cases dealing with similar issues have typically ended in favor of the party wishing to destroy, two recent cases -- both including women left infertile due to cancer -- have been ruled in favor of the woman wishing to preserve them. In divorce cases that involve such intricate matters as custody of embryos, many people in Mississippi have learned that having an experienced family law attorney willing to fight for them in court is one of the best paths to a fair outcome.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Divorced couple fighting in court over frozen embryos", Maura Dolan, July 13, 2015

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